Editor’s Note: Mark Land has been bowfishing since he was old enough to hold a bow. For 20 years, he worked for Muzzy and competed in bowfishing tournaments all over the nation. He bowfished for alligator gar. The range of the alligator gar extends from the Mississippi River basin of southwestern Ohio and southern Illinois south to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Econfina River of the western Panhandle of Florida west to Veracruz, Mexico. Large lakes, bays, backwaters, bayous and coastal delta waters along large southern rivers are the preferred habitat of the alligator gar, although this fish is seldom found in brackish or marine waters. It prefers shallow, weedy environments and the sluggish pools and backwaters of large rivers and can survive in hot and stagnant waters.
My next biggest critter I’d ever taken bowfishing was at Choke Canyon, Texas. Joey Mennangotti was with me. We were filming a show for Bowhunting TV. We also had Jack Thatcher with us, who runs charter bowfishing trips for big alligator gar at Choke Canyon. On the first day, we shot a lot of buffalo (the largest North American sucker) and tilapia during the daytime. Then that night we shot more buffalo and carp.
On the second night, we went to a big-timber area with timber standing in the water. At night those big alligator gar would rise to the surface. When I spotted the first one, I thought shooting the gar would be like shooting a telephone pole floating in the water, since the gars out there were just monstrous. The gar I shot was almost to the surface when I shot it. So, I aimed about a foot under it. I was lucky, because I hit this gar right in his bladder, and that took all the fight out of the gar.
I was using a Muzzy Spincast reel with 50-pound test Spectra line (www.spectrafishing.com), which wasn’t considered big bowfishing gear. Because I hit the bladder on this big alligator gar, it didn’t fight much or run far, so getting it in the boat was not too difficult. We ended up putting three arrows in the gar. Joey shot the gar right after I did, but his line got wrapped around a tree, and we had to cut his line. We had to use another arrow and line to shoot the gar the third time. We were able to put that 7-1/2-foot long, 230-pound alligator gar in the boat within 15 to 20 minutes after we shot it.
Many folks like to eat gar, and this recipe is one of my favorites.
How to Make Gar Balls
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 pounds garfish meat
Salt and pepper to taste
1 packet of Fish Fry or a mixture of 1/3-cup flour and 1/3-cup yellow cornmeal seasoned with 1/2-teaspoon each of black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika (optional)
Oil for frying
Grind garfish in a meat grinder or a food processor, or scrape meat with a spoon off the bone.
Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Mix well, and form into balls or patties (golf-ball size or larger if desired). If making coating from scratch, combine in a bowl the dry ingredients.
Roll in the Fish Fry or your seasoned corn meal coating, and deep fry until golden brown.
Serve alone or with your favorite dipping sauce. Goes really great with crab or shrimp stew.
Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cook Time: 15 minutes. Ready In: 25 minutes.
To learn more about bowfishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “The Bowfishing Bible,” available in Kindle and print versions at – http://amzn.to/22zX7Zz.
Tomorrow: How Much Mark Land Enjoys Bowfishing Tournaments